Giro stage 10: Uran sets up Sky conundrum

Stage 10: Cordenons to Altopiano del Montasio, 167km

And then there were two. Having started the day with three of the top nine riders on general classification, Sky went on the attack on this year’s first high mountain finish of Altopiano del Montasio. Sergio Henao was sacrificed in a gambit which saw fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran claim victory at the summit, in the process leapfrogging struggling team leader Bradley Wiggins to move up to third overall. Vincenzo Nibali defended his overall lead with impressive ease.

14 riders escaped early on before Sky showed their intent by moving to the front of the maglia rosa group on the second half of the cat 1 Cason di Lanza. Their tempo was fierce enough to detach defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) well before the summit.

The narrow, twisty and dangerous descent was negotiated with appropriate caution before Sky again took up the reins, swallowing up final breakaway survivors Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) and Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) on the lower slopes of the final climb. Dario Cataldo and Henao set up an acceleration by Uran 8km from home, which Nibali opted to let go.

One by one big names started to fall away: Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez, who had earlier yo-yoed off the back, former champions Danilo di Luca (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), third-placed Robert Gesink (Blanco) and Bradley Wiggins. But Nibali remained in control, allowing the Ag2r La Mondiale pair of Domenico Pozzovivo and Carlos Betancur to launch late attacks while keeping close tabs on the greater threats of Cadel Evans (BMC) and Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini).

Betancur, who had suffered a mechanical earlier on the climb, gave everything in pursuit of Uran but he would not be caught, crossing the line with a 20-second cushion to set up a Colombian one-two. 11 seconds behind, Nibali won the sprint for third, gaining eight bonus seconds to extend his overall lead over Evans to 41 seconds. Wiggins was tenth, 37 seconds behind Nibali.

VeloVoices rider of the day

He has been unfairly labelled by some as a super-domestique, but Rigoberto Uran is much more than that. Like Wiggins, he is a 2012 Olympic medalist – silver in the road race – but he has a better record at the Giro: the Englishman has never finished higher than 40th, whereas the Colombian was seventh last year and won the young riders’ classification.

Today he accelerated away from all his rivals with deceptive smoothness and maintained a rapid tempo all the way to the finish, coolly holding off Betancur’s late charge to capture his first – and I suspect not his last – grand tour stage.

Opinion & analysis

As the first high summit finish of the race, this was always going to be the day when poker faces were dropped and cards laid on the table. The cracks in defending champion Ryder Hesjedal‘s facade had already been exposed twice over the weekend as he cracked long before the denouement and conceded over 20 minutes. Samuel Sanchez lost touch on both climbs and more than doubled his deficit – he’s now 18th, 7:46 down. Hesjedal will now presumably switch to targeting a stage win, while Sanchez faces a choice between a similar strategy and targeting perhaps a top ten finish.

Questions had been raised over the weekend about Astana’s ability to protect race leader Vincenzo Nibali in the mountains. On today’s evidence both the team and the Sicilian looked fine, with Valerio Agnoli escorting Nibali until the closing kilometres, from where he looked secure covering the moves he needed to and bringing it home safely.

A number of climbers showed their true form today, boding well for their prospects over the second half of the race. Carlos Betancur was runner-up for the second stage in a row, while Mauro Santambrogio, Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Domenico Pozzovivo all shadowed Nibali across the line. Also in that select group was Cadel Evans, who continues to display the kind of form which brought him so much success in 2011.

Meanwhile the situation at Sky was simultaneously made simpler and yet more complex. Sergio Henao was used as the battering ram, giving Rigoberto Uran free rein to attack the other favourites while Bradley Wiggins was left to play possum and do what he could. The Briton remains fourth, now one second behind Uran. It’s too early to discount Wiggins entirely, however, and the reality probably is that the pair will share joint leadership of the team until one emerges with a decisive advantage over the other.

Stage 10 result

1. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) 4:37:42

2. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:20

3. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +0:31

4. Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) same time

5. Cadel Evans (BMC) s/t

General classification

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 38:57:32

2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +0.41

3. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +2:04

4. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +2:05

5. Robert Gesink (Blanco) +2:12

6. Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) +2:13

7. Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) +2:55

8. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) +3:35

9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +4:17

10. Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) +4:21

Link: Official website

showed their intent

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